We Must Go Back To Being Hard To Beat
One point from four games and eight goals conceded - this wasn't what Sunderland were doing in the second half of last season. David Moyes has to find a way to get his side to stop leaking goals and the way to go about that may be to go boring.
It was interesting how the substitution of Jan Kirchhoff, which from his point of view will be to keep him free of injury since the game was already over, saw Sunderland switch to a 3-5-2. I wouldn't be against Moyes experimenting with this system, especially when it was the same system that got us out of a rut last season. It would accentuate our strengths in defence, by which I mean - we have a high amount of defensive minded players, so let's use them. It would also give the often rash Papy Djilobodji some added cover in the heart of defence, as he would line up with Jason Denayer as well as Lamine Kone. Jan Kirchhoff is a given in the side, Didier Ndong will be starting soon enough after his record breaking transfer and you could have Steven Pienaar or Jack Rodwell fighting over the remaining place. Pienaar would probably be preferred due to his ability on the ball but if pure defence is what's needed, Moyes may stick with the protege Rodwell, if he does go with this formation.
From an attacking point of view it would only be a question of who goes in the other forward position alongside Jermain Defoe. Full backs would provide attacking width, mainly from Patrick van Aanholt, so wingers like Lynden Gooch would be pointless. It could be a good opportunity to introduce Victor Anichebe to proceedings as his hold up play and ability to drop in defensively in wide areas would further stop opposition attacks. I realise this means dropping Adnan Januzaj and keeping Wahbi Khazri out of the side but this is the sad situation we find ourselves in.
I realise how negative this sounds but with a very tough trip to Tottenham Hotspur on the horizon, becoming hard to break down has to be at the forefront of the teams mind. If that means being dull and grinding out a result, so be it.
Watmore - No More Than A Sub
It's really difficult to glean anything from Duncan Watmore's performance against Everton. This was the denouement in the "should he be only used off the bench?" fiasco. The England Under 21 international, now that defenders know what to expect from him, just isn't having the impact that Sunderland need. When coming on as a substitute and running at tired defenders, you can see his value in our squad. But when he's starting and never making the right passes, while the gifted technique of Wahbi Khazri sits on the bench, you start to wonder what's going on.
To give some leeway to Watmore, the lad isn't a winger. He's a centre forward and looks like one who's playing out of position. You can see that in the way he never releases the ball at the right time, always opting to run with the ball and try and fashion the opportunity himself. Like any selfish striker would do. If he is to start games, and I'm not advocating that he should be, it should be through the middle and not out wide. Hopefully something that is salvaged from the wreckage of this game is that, for the moment at least, Watmore is an impact sub and nothing more.
Return Of The Jan
If you want to try and find a positive, the return of Jan Kirchhoff was joyous to watch for 45 minutes. The three tackles in as many seconds, during the first half, being my personal standout moment. Kirchhoff can't deal with every calamity that Sunderland throws at him though, despite his best efforts and was probably as frustrated as many supporters to see his hard work and efforts count for nothing.
After watching a lot of nervous players in recent weeks, it was great to see Kirchhoff resume his role as the unflappable conductor in our midfield. As a fan, it's quite satisfying to hear people shouting "man on!" to a player you know is fully aware but also doesn't care. Our goals tonight were our own undoing, from counter attacking play, but at least with Kirchhoff in the side we know teams will have to overcome a big obstacle when trying to build slowly.
What Happened To Shots?
When Sunderland started kicking on during the second half of last season, they were having a high amount of shots. This was driven by Sam Allardyces stats based philosophy of - have plenty of shots and one will go in eventually. See fortuitous goals such as Patrick van Aanholt vs. Aston Villa or Dame N'Doye vs. Crystal Palace as good examples. It kept getting goals, so it's a hard strategy to argue with.
We're not really seeing that under David Moyes and it's not like we're taking advantage of our limited opportunities either. Against Everton we had 11 shots overall, 9 less than the visitors and only 2 of which forced Maarten Stekelenburg into a save. To put that into an even more damning perspective, Romelu Lukaku had 9 shots on goal himself and 6 were on target. It follows a trend of only 5 shots against Southampton and only hitting the target 5 times against newly promoted Middlesbrough.
If we're going to continue to over rely on Jermain Defoe we either need to make sure clean sheets are being kept at the back or we start creating a hell of a lot more chances for him.
Not Stopping Crosses At One End, Not Making Any At The Other
Remember when David Moyes was highly criticised at Manchester United for having his side attempt far too many crosses? I'm beginning to wonder if he's been scared by that and the prove some perverse point, he's allowing the opposition so many of them.
Everton made 21 crosses to Sunderland's 12 last night, which can be fine if you're dealing with them correctly. For Everton's first and second goal, The Black Cats didn't. They failed to prevent the ball coming in and weren't organised enough in the middle to even pick up Romelu Lukaku. After a brilliant Jordan Pickford save in the first half, you'd have thought Sunderland would have learned their lesson and at least started marking one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League.
Fair enough, the opener came off our corner (a problem in itself) so we were always going to be slightly disorganised but Patrick van Aanholt & Papy Djilobodji both going to make the same tackle was just a pure basic error. It allowed Idrissa Gueye the time to get the ball in, as the full back was taken out, and it meant Lukaku was unmarked as Kone was still trying to get back from the corner and Djilobodji was also removed from the play after, once again, diving in. If only one player goes for the ball then you either have a chance of stopping the cross or the opportunity to mark Lukaku. An awful piece of communication meant Sunderland could do neither and they gifted Everton the first goal.
Once Again, We've Been Bossed By The Opposition Midfield
In the defeat to Middlesbrough, we saw Adam Clayton & Adam Forshaw make a much higher amount of tackles than anyone in the Sunderland side. In that game, you could attribute it to Sunderland having more of the ball than Boro therefore, the visitors were being forced into more tackles. That wasn't the case against Everton though with the toffees enjoying 66% of possession but making 27 tackles to Sunderland's 10. Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye made 12 tackles between them, Adnan Januzaj being their main victim as he lost the ball four times.
Obvious praise will go to Yannick Bolasie and Romelu Lukaku for their brilliant part they played in this match but Gueye and Barry excelled in their roles. Not content with their tackling, they also barely gave away the ball with Gueye completing 95% of his passes and Barry just behind on 87%. You can take it as some comfort that Ronald Koeman's team were just playing at their best here, as his midfielders typified the high standards he's set his team, but it also shows David Moyes just how much work he has to do if he's to get his boys just in touching distance of his former club.
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